Jakarta polls campaign kicks off – in S’pore

The presidential election in Indonesia is five months away, but the campaigning has already started overseas – in Singapore.

At least two presidential aspirants are making their pitch in Singapore forums.

National Assembly chairman Amien Rais addressed undergraduates at the National University of Singapore yesterday.

And former military commander Wiranto has been invited to give talks next week to the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) and the Association of Muslim Professionals{Correction: see CX mnemonic}.

Publicly, their message is almost the same: the need to bring in much-needed investments to Indonesia. But more importantly, it gives the candidates a platform to promote themselves ahead of the polls.

General Wiranto’s campaign spokesman Ted Sulistyo said this would be the candidate’s second trip in recent months. He was in Singapore last November to meet Indonesian businessmen.

He told The Straits Times: ‘The agenda is very clear. We need to get investments back into the country. But indirectly, he also gets the chance to promote himself as a presidential candidate.’

He revealed that Gen Wiranto also had invitations from European countries and Malaysia and Thailand. But as is the case for many Indonesian politicians, Singapore was ideal for him because of its geographical proximity.

Singapore was also considered a choice venue because of its role as a regional financial and information hub.

Leading think-tanks such as the IDSS and the Institute of South-east Asian Studies have played hosts several times to visiting Indonesian politicians by inviting them to give talks.

Gen Wiranto has been trying hard to build his image abroad and erase the taint left by the Indonesian military’s link to the East Timor massacre in 1999.

Analysts believe that trips overseas would also give him a chance to spell out his agenda for Indonesia if he is elected.

As for Dr Amien, he has been pursuing a hectic travel schedule – making several trips to Australia, Europe and North America during the past year.

The aim is to give him maximum international exposure and to help ‘correct misperceptions’ of him as a politician too closely linked to Islamic groups, said one of his campaign aides.

‘The best way to counter such perceptions is to introduce him in person. Singapore is ideal for him because it is the regional hub. The message will get across faster.’

At least two other candidates are likely to follow in their footsteps. Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung said that he had plans to visit Singapore as well as Malaysia and Japan ‘in the next few months’.

Security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is a dark horse in the presidential race, might also stop over in Singapore en route to China this weekend.

VISIT OFFERS CHANCE FOR SELF-PROMOTION

The agenda is very clear. We need to get investments back into the country. But indirectly, he also gets the chance to promote himself as a presidential candidate.’

– Mr Ted Sulistyo, campaign spokesman for Gen Wiranto

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